Why go fast? Compared to moving slowly, the advantages seem obvious: find food first, forage more widely, and escape more rapidly! But, in the water, being speedier incurs huge energetic costs, with moving a little bit faster skyrocketing the amount of fuel you need. This trade-off between speed and energy propels the evolutionary race for fish, robots, or sailboats: you have to find ways to go faster with ever-greater efficiency. Over generations, the evolutionary race can produce biological and engineering surprises: distantly related fish and boat hulls that have similar streamlined shapes, materials and construction techniques that manage to both stiffen and lighten bodies and hulls, specialization of propulsive systems, and constraints on making turns and tight maneuvers. While the evolutionary processes employed by nature and engineers are similar, there are important differences in how fish or boats are built. For both kinds of designers, the laws of evolution and physics interact to create and constrain the drive for speed. Dr Long will discuss how robotics research lab studies fast fish! A book signing will follow the talk for Dr. Long's latest book titled Darwin's Devices: What Evolving Robots Can Teach Us About the History of Life and the Future of Technology.
A vertebrate physiologist specializing in biomechanics, John has expanded his research program to examine the locomotor evolution of early vertebrates. New techniques include robotics, cognitive science, physics-based computer simulation, and evolutionary analysis. This cross-disciplinary approach has been made possible by collaborators at Vassar, Lafayette College, Shriners Hospital for Children, University of California, University of North Carolina, Nekton Research, and Duke University.